Steve Clarke has agreed to Arsenal’s request to omit Kieran Tierney from his latest Scotland squad after the London club insisted the left-back needs treatment for an unspecified injury during the international break.
Tierney has started three of Arsenal’s last four matches. The latest problem is understood to be unrelated to a long-running pelvic complaint that has hampered him in recent months.
While frustrated, Clarke is conscious the forthcoming games against Cyprus and Kazakhstan are essentially dead rubbers and there are bigger battles to come. Scotland’s chances of qualifying for Euro 2020 hinge on a play-off in March.
By contrast, Clarke has perhaps been able to take advantage of the current situation at managerless Hearts when calling up Steven Naismith. His determination to be involved is a bonus after just over half an hour of first-team football since August.
The Hearts striker only returned to action after two months out with a hamstring injury on Sunday as a second-half substitute in the 3-0 Betfred Cup semi-final defeat by Rangers. He was included for the double header against Russia and Belgium in September but left the squad after the first game when it became clear he would not be able to take to the pitch, even off the bench.
The then Hearts manager Craig Levein said it had been “a mistake” to allow him to join the squad but he has since been sacked by the Tynecastle club.
Naismith will win his 50th cap and join the Scotland Roll of Honour in his next international appearance and is desperate to have the chance to do so, having won his 49th cap as long ago as last October against Portugal.
“Obviously I had a little hesitation because I called him into the camp in September and it did not work out,” said Clarke. “He ended up missing a few more games and a few more weeks. I spoke to Steven yesterday and he assures me he is 100 per cent fit and raring to go. It was nice to see him get some minutes on the pitch in the semi-final and I am sure he will play some part of the game for Hearts [v St Mirren] this weekend.”
Tierney could also play for Arsenal tonight in their Europa League clash with Vitoria Guimaraes in Portugal and then against Leicester City in the Premier League this weekend, but he will not play for Scotland again until next spring, at least. He has not appeared for the international team since a 2-1 defeat against Israel in Haifa more than a year ago.
Having agreed to omit him from his planned squad for the last two games, against Russia and San Marino, on the eve of the squad announcement, Clarke sounded taken aback to have to do so again this time around, once again at Arsenal manager Unai Emery’s request. “Was Arsenal’s request a surprise? In modern football, probably not,” he said.
“But he has managed to play a few games recently, so they are obviously managing the situation.
“They feel that they can address the situation better in the international break. I would imagine that that is why they have requested that we don’t select him.”
Asked if he was confident were it down to Tierney, the player would be on the plane to Cyprus next Friday, he said: “I’d like to think so, yes.”